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OPC Art Expo Focuses on Mexico's 43 Missing Students

September 18, 2015

Included in the OPC exhibition is an installation of 43 kites with the faces of the missing students, that Francisco Toledo made with participants of the "Art and Paper" workshop of San Agustin Etla, in Oaxaca.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - The Oficina de Proyectos Culturales (OPC) is proud to present an exhibition of contemporary art focused on the significance of the disappearance of the 43 students from the Normal Rural School, Raúl Isidro Burgos Ayotzinapa, a case that has yet to be solved. Opening on the one year anniversary of the events, this exhibition recognizes the 43 students and questions the official narrative of their disappearance through mixed-media art including posters, kites, video, and an interactive art installation.

In January of 2015, Oaxaca's internationally renown artist Francisco Toledo called for submissions for Posters for Ayotzinapa, resulting in nearly 700 entries from around the world. Artists from Argentina to Greece; Iran to Lebanon; and Poland to the USA responded to his call, recognizing that the tragedy of Ayotzinapa had outraged people beyond the borders of Mexico.

In Mexico, there is a long tradition of poster making spurred by the committed narrative structure of Stridentism, the artistic and literary movement created by Manuel Maples Arce in 1921. These early posters gave rise to the establishment in 1937 of the "Taller de Gráfica Popular," founded by writer Leopoldo Mendez, whose production was devoted to benefit "the progressive and democratic interests of the Mexican people."

The art works included in "Posters for Ayotzinapa" are the result of the plural and ambitious call launched by Toledo and the Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca just months after the event that led to the disappearance of the 43 students. Committed to the social struggle and denunciation of the event, as well as with aesthetics, Posters for Ayotzinapa clearly illustrates the tremendous potential of posters as an agent provocateur of reaction, opinion, and reflection.

Also included in the exhibition is an installation by Toledo of 43 kites with the faces of the students of the Normal Rural School, that the artist made with the participants of the "Art and Paper" workshop of San Agustin Etla, in Oaxaca.

Toledo explained that his idea of the kites came from an old tradition practiced in Juchitan, Oaxaca. People there use kites to attract the souls of people who have died. For the artist, however, this does not mean that the students are already dead, rather it is a way to call them home to their families.

Level of Confidence by Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is an art project to commemorate the mass kidnapping of the 43 students. The project consists of a face-recognition camera that has been trained to tirelessly look for the faces of the disappeared students. As you stand in front of the camera, the system uses algorithms to find which student's facial features look most like yours and gives a "level of confidence" on how accurate the match is, in percentages.

"It is unlikely that the piece will find the students because the face recognition system is trained with the few pictures that are publicly available, ergo, photos of their identification cards, which are additionally low resolution and a couple of years old in many cases, also the piece can only be exposed in certain places, such as universities and museums, where it is unlikely that students are. But the spirit of this project is to continue the search," explains the artist, whose work is part of collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern collection in London, in an interview.

Guerrero: Monster in the Mountains is a 7-minute short documentary based on the work of photographer Matt Black, produced and published in the series of videos and films for The New Yorker magazine. This short film shows how families of the missing are coping with the still unexplained loss of their loved ones, and how citizens are struggling to protect themselves, and to preserve hope.

Black is a photographer from California's Central Valley. His work has explored themes of migration, poverty and the environment in his native rural California and in southern Mexico. His work has been honored by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Pictures of the Year International, World Press Photo, the Alexia Foundation, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and others.

A series of roundtable discussions, poetry reading, and talks with the artists will be held throughout the exhibition.

The OPC wishes to thank the Barlow Family for their generous donation of the use of the building, also Master Francisco Toledo; Inari Reséndiz; Laurena Toledo; the Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca; the National Institute of Anthropology and History; Matt Black; and Rafael Lozano Hemmer.

Located at Juarez #598, at the corner of Aldama in downtown Puerto Vallarta, Oficina de Proyectos Culturales (Office for Cultural Projects, or OPC) is an independent non-profit arts organization dedicated to fostering dialogue through exhibitions, round table discussions, public art and arts education programs. OPC works with artists, architects, curators, academics, and writers who explore ideas that shape our city and to develop cultural programming that is firmly rooted in Puerto Vallarta, yet international in scope.